Since the opening days of preseason, the Yale women’s volleyball team had anxiously awaited this weekend’s Yale Invitational at the Payne Whitney Gymnasium. After all the training and practices, the round-robin tournament would finally show just how potent the Elis’ 2001 squad is in real-game situations.
Now with three matches under its belt, Yale (2-1) can rest easy. After slugging it out over two days against three different opponents, the Bulldogs emerged with a promising 2-1 record. The weekend included a 3-2 victory over Hartford (3-4), a 3-0 win over Marist (0-8) and a 3-0 loss to Hofstra (5-4), last season’s American East Conference champions and an NCAA Tournament team.
The Flying Dutchwomen defeated all three opponents 3-0 and won the Invitational outright, garnering the team’s first in-season tournament championship since winning the St. Francis (Pa.) Invitational in 1997. Hofstra has also won five consecutive matches without dropping a game.
But Hofstra’s stellar play did not outshine a promising start to the Bulldogs’ season. And even the hard-fought loss could not subdue Yale’s high spirits.
“Hofstra is a really solid team,” Joey Lee ’03 said. “We lost in three [games], but we still did well considering how good they are.”
Over the entire match, the Bulldogs only scored nine fewer points than Hofstra, losing 30-28, 30-26, 30-27.
Yale faced a scrappy Hartford team in its other Saturday match and got an early-season chance to test the focus that is so vital in Ivy League play.
“Hartford came out and gave us a really strong [match],” Vanessa Herald ’02 said. “But we didn’t give up, and we came out fighting, so it was good.”
Friday afternoon, Yale easily dispatched a hapless Marist team, 30-19, 30-20 and 30-23.
The highlight of the weekend was the play of the Eli freshmen — Jana Freeman ’05, Lauren Burke ’05 and Kelly McAlearney ’05 — who made their collegiate debuts this weekend with significant contributions in the Eli victories.
Perhaps the most memorable moment of the tournament was Freeman’s down-the-line spike that slammed off an opponent’s forehead.
“The freshmen played amazingly,” team captain Carissa Abbott ’02 said. “They didn’t play like [inexperienced] freshman at all.”
The Yale team also used this weekend to get used to a new scoring system. The NCAA abolished the 15-point games, in which a team could only win a point on its serve. In its place, 30-point rally-games are played, in which teams can score during any point, regardless of who served.
“I think we’re really happy with the way we played with the new system,” Abbott said.
In its final tune-up before Ancient Eight action, Yale heads off to Kansas Thursday for the two-day Kangaroo Classic where it will play Southern Mississippi, Stephen F. Austin and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.